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On Earth Day, Think About How a Water Utility Can Help Our Planet

Philadelphia Water works to protect our rivers and planet in a number of ways. Clockwise from top left: Solar panels at our Southeast Water Pollution Control Plant; a Green City, Clean Waters tree trench in East Falls; part of our Biogas Cogeneration system at the Northeast WPCP; Philadelphia Water volunteers at a March 2016 Bartram’s Garden cleanup that removed 12,927 pounds of trash from the Schuylkill River’s banks.
Philadelphia Water works to protect our rivers and planet in a number of ways. Clockwise from top left: Solar panels at our Southeast Water Pollution Control Plant; a Green City, Clean Waters tree trench in East Falls; part of our Biogas Cogeneration system; Philadelphia Water volunteers at a March 2016 Bartram’s Garden cleanup that removed 12,927 pounds of trash from the Schuylkill River’s banks.

While the Philadelphia Water Department’s core mission is to provide our 1.5 million customers with constant access to safe, clean drinking water, a big part of doing that job involves protecting and improving our local rivers and creeks.

After all, providing top quality drinking water is a lot easier when you take care of your source water.

That simple fact makes Philadelphia Water, in many ways, an environmental institution.

Come Celebrate the New Independence Park Living Wall

We're inviting everyone to check out the new "living wall" installation at 3rd and Walnut streets during a special ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, Oct. 9 at 10:30 a.m. You can learn more about this amazing billboard for green stormwater solutions by clicking here.  Details on Friday's event can be found on the invite below (click the image for a larger copy). We hope you'll come out and learn more from Philadelphia Water our partners in this exciting project!

 

New Living Wall Acts as a Billboard for Green Tools

UPDATE: Please join us Friday, October 9th at 10:30 a.m. to meet the partners behind this project! Details here.

 

Right: The frame of the living wall with native plants ready for installation. Right: The nearly completed wall before the installation of four stormwater tanks. Credit: Philadelphia Water and SHIFT_DESIGN.
Right: The frame of the living wall with native plants ready for installation. Right: The nearly completed wall before the installation of four stormwater tanks. Credit: Philadelphia Water and SHIFT_DESIGN.

Philadelphia residents and tourists in the city’s historic Independence Hall area can now soak in a truly stunning piece of green infrastructure. Thanks to a partnership between Philadelphia Water, the National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park and SHIFT_DESIGN, a breathtaking new “living wall" is now managing stormwater runoff from the roof of the Department of Interior building located at 3rd and Walnut streets.

And, if the steady stream of passersby who stopped to admire and ask about the project during last week’s installation is any indicator, the colorful grid of flowers and grasses is already a success from a public education standpoint. 

Featuring over 70 individual plants—all of them native to Pennsylvania—suspended from a vertical structure, the living wall collects rainwater from the roof in four stainless steel tanks. Instead of flowing into Philadelphia’s sewer system, which can become overwhelmed during intense rainstorms, the water is pumped from the storage tanks via solar power into irrigation lines that sustain the plant life.

The wall was made possible as a result of the partnership between Philadelphia Water, the National Park Service and the Pennsylvania Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Coastal Nonpoint Pollution (CNPP) grant program. A Philadelphia-based business, SHIFT_DESIGN conceived, fabricated and installed the living wall, even donating some of their services to make this billboard for the functional beauty of green stormwater infrastructure a reality.

"For Philadelphia Water, this project is part of ongoing efforts to promote a better understanding of our Green City, Clean Waters program," says Paul Fugazzotto, a member of the department’s public engagement team who worked to develop the partnership. "This living wall will inspire businesses and residents to pursue creating their own innovative, beautiful green tools."

Mario Gentile, founder of SHIFT_DESIGN, says that, like all of the firm’s projects, the living wall was made using completely locally sourced and recycled materials.

"This is a completely self-contained system, so it’s not taxing the grid from an electricity or water perspective," says Gentile. "We like to do projects like this to prove that it’s doable."

Drexel students Oliver Law, Hanna Karraby, Aimee Turner and Iat Chi Sin are working with SHIFT_DESIGN through a cooperative program and helped install the wall, which is scheduled to be finished this week after a two-and-a-half year process. 

Check out our Flickr page to see more images of this stunning living wall and the installation process. 

PWD Wins EPA Award for Turning Poop Into Power!

Amanda Byrne accepts EPA Green Power Leadership Award
PWD Energy Team member Amanda Byrne accepts EPA Green Energy Leadership Award 

It’s not often that PWD gets to share the stage with tech superstars Apple and Google, the design mavens at Herman Miller, or the cool kids at REI and Trek Bicycles. But on December 3rd at the Renewable Energy Markets Conference in Sacramento, PWD Energy Team member Amanda Byrne (pictured above) represented the city of Philadelphia, which received one of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Leadership Awards in the On-site Green Power Generation category. The award recognizes “achievements in advancing the nation’s renewable energy market and reducing greenhouse gas emissions fueling climate change.” 

Philadelphia received the award because of the Greenworks plan and its commitment to purchase and generate 20 percent of its electricity from alternative energy sources. A big step towards reaching that target comes from PWD’s Biogas Cogeneration Facility at the Northeast Water Pollution Control Plant (WPCP), where we’re literally turning the city’s poop into power! The award also recognizes two additional green power projects by PWD, a sewage geothermal installation and solar photovoltaic system, both at PWD’s Southeast WPCP.

The 5.6 megawatt Biogas Cogeneration Facility—our largest green power project to date—came online just about one year ago today and produces about 40 million kilowatt-hours annually. This is the equivalent of avoiding 32,300 metric tons of CO2 emissions each year, the same as taking over 5,000 cars off the road! This facility is also estimated to save $12 million over the course of the next 16 years by producing 85% of the plant’s annual electricity needs right on site.

How does it work? It’s diagram time!
Biogas Cogeneration Diagram 

This plant’s primary responsibility is removing pollutants from our wastewater before sending that water back into the ecosystem. And we’ve figured out how to take the very… uh… stuff (this is a family blog, after all) we pull out of the water and use it to produce fuel for running the plant! So… yeah. Keep flushing Philadelphia!

This is the second EPA Green Power Leadership Award for the City of Philadelphia, which also won in 2012 for Green Power Purchasing. Want to learn more about the EPA’s Green Power Leaders and see who else got to share the stage with PWD and Google? Check out the EPA’s release here.

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